By Jack Parry
Malcolm Johnston stared down Northwestern’s goalkeeper, with the raucous Crew fans located directly behind the goal. With ten minutes remaining, Johnston looked to give the Terps a two goal advantage with a spot kick. Johnston stepped up, and smashed the soul out of the ball past the Wildcats’ keeper for a backbreaking goal.
Even with Northwestern scoring early, Maryland dominated the game from that point forward. The Terps put on an offensive display, beating the Wildcats, 3-1, their first win in three games.
It was another Friday night under the lights at Ludwig Field, but the atmosphere of the contest felt different. After a red hot 7-1 start to the season, the Terps had dropped points in their last two games. With three of their next four games away from home, the No. 12 Terps looked to wake from their slump against the Northwestern Wildcats who were coached by former Maryland goalkeeper and assistant coach Russell Payne.
“I know for me it was very difficult to get super jazzed up. But you know once the whistle blew, we want to kick their ass,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said.
The Terps tried working their way into the game early by building some possession from the back, as sophomore defender Kento Abe started at right back in place of injured Nick Richardson. However, the backline wasn’t promising early, as a crucial mistake from senior defender Chris Rindov resulted in the first goal of the night from the Wildcats.
A pass from backline partner William Kulvik was sloppily handled by Rindov, leading to Northwestern forward Vicente Castro picking up the ball in possession. A short run inside the box was followed by a toe tap that went past junior goalie Niklas Neumann and gently nestled against the back of the net. Castro’s pressing resulted in Northwestern taking a 1-0 advantage in the 15th minute.
As the first half inched forward, Northwestern’s possession dwindled with Cirovski’s Terps pressing the gas pedal. A great run by Joshua Bolma on the left resulted in him picking out Ben Bender for a shot in the box, who ended up scuffing his chance and sailing the ball toward the crowd in the 31st minute.
Eventually after controlling possession and chances in the first period, Maryland leveled the game with a beautiful header from Senior forward Justin Gielen at the top of the 35th minute. The action was spurred by a beautiful left footed ball by senior forward Brayan Padilla into the center of the box. The ball’s pinpoint accuracy had it delivered on a platter to the head of Gielen, who guided the ball straight into the bottom right corner, and tied the game up at 1-1.
The home side had a few more chances, as a Bolma shot in transition hit the side netting in the 42nd. However, the 1-1 score at halftime seemed to not even relate to the stat sheet. Maryland controlled the ball with 72% possession in the period, and also had 11 shots compared to the 3 from the Wildcats side who seemed to be heavily benefiting from Chris Rindov’s early error.
“It [helps] starting a goal down and then getting that momentum going into halftime still being tied so you know you have to do something the next half,” Gielen said.
With the start of the second half came a continuation of the trends seen in the first half, as the Terps clawed their way into the lead with a fearsome fastbreak possession in the 49th minute.
Forwards Jacen Russell-Rowe and Caden Stafford found midfielder Ben Bender down the middle of the pitch, as eventually Bender set Russell-Rowe on his left just inside the box. He ripped his laces through the ball, rocketing it past the right outstretched arm of Miskovic and into the back of the net. Russell-Rowe proceeded to be swarmed by a multitude of his teammates as Maryland took a 2-1 edge, their first lead in three games.
“We’re going to hopefully encourage our guys to have a little bit more of that quality in the final third,” Cirovski said.
As the game rolled on, the Wildcats began to create some interesting chances. As the Terps began to waver, forward Vicente Castro found himself one on one with Neumann in the 54th minute. The intense showdown ended with a miraculous save from the Maryland goalkeeper diving to his left, thwarting Northwestern’s attack.
As the game clock ticked down at Ludwig, the home side began to control the game even more. Multiple shots came through and the score just didn’t seem to budge. Brayan Padilla bent his shot to the left hand side of the goal, where Jose Del Valle put his hand up to block a surefire goal. The lapse in judgement resulted in a red card and a penalty for the Terps.
With the visitors down to ten men, Malcolm Johnston was given the opportunity to seal the win from the spot. The junior midfielder buried his chance, with a stutter-step hesitation approach followed by a powerful shot to the right of Miskovic, giving his side a two goal lead with ten minutes to go.
The last ten minutes were more of the same and the game ended in a 3-1 statement win for Maryland. With the regular season coming down to the final stretch, the Terps look to follow up this win away in Newark, Delaware in a showdown against the University of Delaware on Tuesday.
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